Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Hawthornes Attend Another Six-Course Wine-Paired Dinner At The Saltbox Café.

Monday evening, October 24, 2016 we were treated, once again, to The Saltbox Café's Wine Dinner Series. 

Tonight, it's a wine-tasting journey down the Loire River, each wine paired with an exquisite, innovative course from the creative minds of Chefs Amanda and Randolph Sprinkle.

Guest chef is Joshua Naser.
Our servers are Matt and Sherry.
And Jen and Steve of Empire Wine Distributors are our wine experts tonight.

Can these dinners get any better?
I didn't think so.
But I was proved wrong tonight.

Welcome to The Saltbox Café.

For those not in the know (That would include me.), above is a map of the Loire Valley. It starts south of Paris and travels west to the Atlantic.  Now, that country would be France.  (I know that.)  And Google tells me this area creates a great  diversity of wines due to its dynamic climate, ranging from continental to Mediterranean.
Diners at the Salt Box Café were allowed to partake of that diversity of the Loire last Monday night, each wine carefully coupled with a Sprinkle Creation.  Would that be a Sprinkle-ation?

 Chef Randolph explained that they had a lot of fun doing the Loire region because of the many influences there - great agriculture, dairy from Normandy, lots of game, and the seafood and shellfish from Brittany.  Take all of that, mush it together with local stuff, and you gotcha self a dang fine meal.

 Our first course is house-made duck terrine with currant mustard sauce and onion pickle paired with Domaine De La Charmoise Touraine Gamay.


As soon as Chefs Sprinkles tried this wine, the first thing that came to mind was a paté/terrine/cold meat type of course.  This wine allowed Chef Randolph the chance to do a little charcuterie.  He created a duck terrine - a mixture of duck and pork flavored with cognac, accompanied by pickled onions in tarragon vinegar, and finished with a mixture of currants and mustard.

A terrine is a fancy meatloaf.
And now I want my own terrine...  With fancy mustards.

 Oh, Sweet Mustard, was this ever so good.

 Unctuous duck meat tamed by onion pickles and sweet mustard sauce.
 Microgreens for a little green bite.

Now, here's where I could go on and on about the Domaine de la Charmoise Touraine Gamay  and how it married with this food and that food, and how intricate nuances were educed, then how it ended up with a lazy funkiness about it like an old married couple, but I won't.  I'll go on to our second course...

...but not before I look at the terrine one more time.

 Course 2:  Honey walnut crostini with whipped brie cheese and sweet butter lettuce paired with Chateau De La Durandier Samur Sparkling Rosé.

Crostini is fancy toast.  From a baguette.  Which is a fancy loaf of bread.


Tarragon vinaigrette rounding the plate.

  Whupped cheeses are my new favorite thing.
The Brie was whipped until light and fluffy.  The honey is local Colington honey from bees who eat "high on the hog" in Rosie's garden. 
Sweet butter lettuce complements the toasty nuttiness, the honey, and the buttery brie.

The Chateau de la Durandiere Saumur Sparkling Rosé  crept onto my tongue like an anole creeping up on a cricket, his dew-lap lapping.  It was an exquisite experience, one that I shan't soon forget.

 Coming up is my favorite tonight.

 Course 3:  Toasted local brioche with lobster and chèvre butter sauce paired with Laurent Bonneau Vouvray Sec.

A brioche is a fancy French yeast muffin.

 This sauce merits a trip to get some chèvre right now.
And I need to look up a recipe for brioche.  I'm sure I can find something in one of the many Julia Child books I have.

  Chef Amanda looks like she's up to something.
Something delicious, in fact.
This was divine.  I can't describe how good it was, so I won't try.

I wanted to take a dozen of these to-go. 

 Use that muf  brioche to sop up all the buttery chèvrery goodness.
Did I even mention there was LOBSTER in there? 
THAT'S how unbelievably good this was.
 Poached, delicate, sweet, lobster.

Now, about that wine:
Laurent Bonneau, a native of Vouvray, produces this wine, along with other levels of sparkling wines, from 100% Chenin Blanc.  The Vouvray plateau is mostly limestone.  After Googling Laurent Bonneau, I found my favorite wine quote so far:

"After a careful harvest of his 22 acres and a gentle winemaking, he is humble enough to gradually step aside and let the Terroir speak through the grape."

And by golly, I just love it when the terroir speaks through the grape!
"Rosie, my new BFF, meet me at the bottom of the bottle!  We'll wallow in limestone."

Course 4:  Local perch almondine with sautéed haricots verts, paired with Domaine Gerard Fiou Sancerre Blanc. 

 And that's fish with a fancy French way of throwin' in almonds and green beans.

 I need better glasses.  I just read Gerald Ford Sancerre Blanc and thought that a little insensitive what with Betty and all, but I re-read it and see that all is well.

Chef Randolph, impressed with the grassy, herbaceous, and citrus notes of the wine, served light, flaky perch filets accented with lemony-garlic green beans and almonds.

 After limited "research," I learned the that the Domaine Gerard Fiou is a small family winery east of the Sancerre appellation in the town of Saint Satur and the soil is unique due to the high content of flint.

Now, I'm listening for the grape to speak to me.  I swirl my wine glass.  I stick my nose in the glass, pretentiously, and sniff, trying to look like I know what I'm doing.  Why, I detect chives and freshly mowed grass.

I take a timid sip.  The wine is perched on my lips.  (Get it?  We're eating perch!) Then the Sancerre Blanc dove into cavernous depths, like a freediver going for abalone.

I lick parched, chapped lips. 
Only a memory left.
Good by, Sancerre Blanc.

I love a good haiku.  Or a bad one.

Quick peak behind the scenes. 
Hmmm...  Looks like two people are slackin' off. 
I won't name any names, but ... rhymes with Gandolf and Cassandra.

Course 5.  Roasted squab with baby carrots and whipped rosemary potatoes with sauce coq au vin paired with Chateau de Villeneuve Saumur Champigny.

Chef Randolph noted that the Loire region is one of the few places in France where they have a lot of game - boars and birds, so he decided to go with squab, which is either a dove or a pigeon, depending on who you talk to, but we're going with pigeon.  The squab was seared and cooked to medium rare in the breast and was served with a classical coq au vin sauce-  chicken carcasses, red wine, and aromatics simmering for hours to produce a sauce with depth and complexity.

Now, Chef Randolph, I have a question for you.  When you say "classical coq au vine," did you actually throw a rooster in the pot and cook it and did you thicken it with chicken blood?

I love earthy.

Don't you just want to dive into that?

Is it considered bad form to lick one's plate?

Now, about that wine - the Chateau de Villeneuve Saumur Champigny.  This was a ballsy little wine.  It was flirting with me.  It kept giving me the "look."  I had to avert my eyes. This is a provocative, lascivious wine.  We fell heads first into the glass, legs entangled and entwined  like octopi.  It was a one-night-stand.  I know a gigolo when I see one. 

There will come a day
And youth will pass away
What will they say about me?

 She was a Cougar.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, but I know it's going to end on a scrumptious note with a dessert by Chef Amanda.

Course 6:  Autumn apple tarte tatin with a reduced apple cider butter sauce and salted caramel gelato,
paired with Chateau Pierre-Bise Coteaux du Layon Beaulieu.

Pictures can say more than I can:

I love any dessert Chef Amanda makes.  

Now about that wine - Chateau Pierre Bise Coteaux du Layon Beaulieu.  This is a fairly rare, exclusive little wine and it knows it.  It was an uppity potion, animalistic, misunderstood, although its intentions were good.

Just enjoy the pictures and pretend you were there.

The amazing Saltbox Crew!  Parts of it.
Thank you for another spectacular dining experience.

 Enjoy the pictures.

For a recap of our past adventures of the Vines Around the World Series, please click on the links:

October 2014, we visited Spain.
November 2014, we visited Argentina.
December 2014, we visited Paris.
February 2015, we visited Chocolate. (Why yes, Chocolate is a country.)
March 2015, we visited Italy.
October 2015, we visited Germany.
December 2015, we visited Japan.
Also in December 2015, we enjoyed a Réveillon Feast.
And again in December 2015, we visited France.
February 2016, we took a road trip to California.
Also in February 2016, we visited Italy
March 9, 2016, we had a lovely visit to Chile.
March 29, 2016, we visited the Pacific Northwest.
April 20, 2016, we explored the vineyards of Oregon
September 2016, we enjoyed South Africa
October 2016, we experienced Madrid.

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